A study from the University of California has found that over 60 percent of dogs between 11 and 16 years old had one or more signs of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). This syndrome is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans in that in involves disorientation, confusion, memory loss and behavioral changes.
Some signs of CDS are:
- Forgetting the difference between indoors and outdoors and relieving themselves indoors
- Forgetting how to use stairs
- Not recognizing their owners or other family members
- Staring at walls
- Behavior shifts from friendly to aggressive for no apparent reason
- Getting stuck in once familiar places like room corners or behind furniture
- Not responding when called
- Decreased activity
CDS can be diagnosed when other causes of the same behaviors are ruled out. For example, vision or hearing loss would cause the same behavioral changes without cognitive decline. Hypothyroidism could also contribute to decreased activity and withdrawing. In other words, a veterinarian would be required to make an official diagnosis. Cushing’s disease can also contribute to CDS in dogs.
There are a variety of treatments for CDS. One of the prescription pharmaceutical treatments for dogs with CDS is Selegiline, which increases dopamine in the brain. Side effects include diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy and anemia. SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) is an over the counter product that also might have some benefit. (It is also used by people sometimes for depression.) Fish oil has been suggested as a possible treatment, as has a product called Senilife, which contains ginkgo biloba, phosphatidylserine, vitamin E and vitamin B6. One holistic veterinary blogger wrote about another possibility: “Clinical trials have shown that antioxidants, and combinations of antioxidants with acetyl-l-carnitine, vegetable extracts and phosphatidylserine can improve daily function in these dogs.” (Source: Vetnutrition.com)
Another holistic veterinarian wrote that there is a connection between CDS and dogs ingesting aluminum: “We found the commercial diets to be the highest source of contamination. Most municipal waters use Aluminum hydroxide to process water and show high Aluminum content. Aluminum feeding and water bowls should be replaced with stainless steel or glass. Never use aluminum foil to wrap food for yourself or your animals ever!” (Source: Holisticvetpetcare.com)
While this information has focused mainly on dogs, it should be said pet cats can also experience cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Pets suffering from CDS should not be punished or scolded for doing things they can not help. A diagnosis of CDS and learning to care for a suffering animal can go a long way towards understanding the situation and reducing the pain for both the animal and the pet owner.